Small But Great Greek Islands for Your Vacation

Dreaming of a Greek island vacation but can’t figure out which one or ones to choose? You’re not alone. I have the same dilemma every year and I’m Greek! If you’ve been following The Greek Vibe for some time now you’ve probably already read my tips on how to pick the Greek island that’s perfect for you and hopefully bookmarked my easy to pick Greek island(s) list for your vacation to Greece. 

Let me know if you have any questions. In today’s post I recommend 5 smaller Greek islands that are off the beaten track and offer travelers like you and me the chance to slow down, breathe in, and appreciate the simple things that make life worth living. 

Like you, I know what it’s like to be relentlessly attached to technology and bogged down by daily demands. That’s why every year I decide to disconnect for two weeks (at least, wish it were more) on a far-off Greek island that can offer me some much-needed peace of mind, which is becoming a luxury in our day and age. 

Below I’ve selected 5 Greek islands that can do just that: take you out of the madness and into the magic. 

Small But Great Greek Islands for Your Vacation
A glance of the fairytale-like Chora of Amorgos… Photo credit: Clement Souchet on Unsplash

1. Amorgos, Cyclades

Once you step foot on this tiny island in the Aegean Sea, you’ll see (and feel) for yourself why it inspired two of Greece’s greatest poets: Nobel laureate Odysseas Elytis and Nikos Gatsos. I would describe Amorgos as a hidden gem that wins you over with its aura, the beauty of its hills and valleys, and of course with the narrow footpaths of its crown the Chora overlooking the vast Aegean. But for me it is Amorgos’ crystal clear waters that lift all the heaviness and heal you. If you’ve seen The Big Blue by Luc Besson you know exactly what I mean. In addition to chilling on the beach, at the bar, on the veranda or on the square, eating some of the finest Cyclades delicacies like my absolute favorite fava, fresh fish, octopus and local wine, you could of course do some scuba diving (just like in the film), sailing (perfect winds) to the two deserted islets nearby: Gramvousa and Nikouria, or take an art, yoga, or reiki course.

►Best time to visit: June, July or early September

►Does it have an airport: No. You can book a flight from Athens to Naxos and take a local boat to Amorgos.

►Getting there: ferries set off from Piraeus regularly in the summer. Trip takes about 7.5 hours

Book your ferry tickets to the Greek islands stress-free

2. Samothrace

Can’t get more off the beaten track than this! That’s why Samothrace is a best island getaway for all of you who are spiritual seekers, campers, adventure types, not keen on luxury and crowds, loners, poets… you get the point. It’s also a favorite for climbers who come here to test their grit on Mt Saos.

Samothrace is hard to get to which probably explains why it still feels like it’s lost in time and space. One thing’s for sure, the moment you set foot on the island, you’ll feel the grip of a mystical energy.

Small But Great Greek Islands for Your Vacation
The Greek Nike: Winged Victory of Samothrace today on show in the Louvre.

Unlike most of the Cyclades islands, Samothrace is green, really green with dense forests, towering cliffs, hidden waterfalls, healing natural springs (vathres), secluded hamlets, and white-sand beaches with emerald-green waters. I think I’ve said enough to give the picture of paradise and it is! Legend has it that Samothrace possesses healing powers because it was the sanctuary of the great gods. Zeus, the king of the gods, was said to have watched over the events of the Trojan War from here. 

Why should you visit Samothrace? If not for the stunning natural setting for sure to see where one of the world’s most famous Greek sculptures was found (and born). This is the birthplace of the famous “Nike” or “Winged Victory of Samothrace“. You can still see the 2,500-year-old Greek masterpiece in the Louvre in Paris. Nike was the goddess of victory and what inspired the brand Nike (shoes).

►Best time to visit: June, July or September

►Does it have an airport: no 

►Getting there: You can book a flight from Athens to Alexandroupolis airport in northern Greece and then hop on a ferry, which takes you there in under 2 hours. Make sure to book your ferry tickets both ways ahead.

3. Skyros, Sporades Islands

Small But Great Greek Islands for Your Vacation
View of Skyros. Photo credit: Jim Makos @Unsplash

Skyros is perhaps the most underrated Greek island and because of that is still very genuine catering more to discerning travelers who are seeking something special. Besides hosting the craziest carnival celebrations in Greece every year – if you haven’t visited Greece during Apokries (Carnival) please do so! – Skyros is one of the Greek islands where age-old traditions and customs are still alive and where living like a local is still very possible. Little has changed over time here and a stroll through the medieval-style Hora is enough to convince (and charm) you. 

Proof of Skyros’ enchanting aura? The dozens of retreats taking place on its uncrowded beaches on everything from music and writing to yoga and art. The island, which is closer to mainland Greece, is also known for its miniature horse, the cute Skyros pony, and for the beautiful Byzantine-inspired wood-carved, hobbit-like chairs. Expect to spend your days just taking in the stunning views, swimming, eating fresh products and winding down. Perfect for those of you who prefer to travel solo or for artists and writers.

►Best time to visit: May, June, July or September, October

►Does it have an airport: yes, located 4km from the main town of Hora

►Getting there: Book a flight from Athens to Skyros or from Thessaloniki or take a ferry from the mainland from the city of Volos.

Small But Great Greek Islands for Your Vacation

4. Lipsi, Dodecanese

It takes about nine hours to get to Lipsi but believe me it’s worth every hour on the ferry. This tiny island has made the news because its beaches have no sun-beds and umbrellas and it also promotes recycling and plastic-free practices. Just imagine being able to do everything on foot! And yes, it’s no wonder that the notorious nymph Calypso lured Odysseus here for seven whole years. 

Don’t expect massive resorts and hotels, loud bars and partying. Instead, everything on Lipsi is family-owned and -run, small and welcoming. Do expect secluded beaches, crystal-clear waters, impromptu concerts, and long hours of doing absolutely nothing just looking at the stars and dreaming the nights away.

Lipsi is basically one of 23 islets which you should visit on one of the daily boat trips on offer. The island is ideal for solo travelers, couples, artists and digital nomads, and for those who just want to disconnect and start their day with an early swim and a slice of local “ladotyri” cheese, thyme honey, and freshly baked bread.

►Best time to visit: June, July or end of August, September

►Does it have an airport: no, you can fly to neighboring Leros 

►Getting there: take the ferry from Piraeus, takes about 8.5 hours or fly on a domestic flight to Leros and from there take the regular ferry to Lipsi

► Working Remotely from Greece: All You Need to Know

Small But Great Greek Islands for Your Vacation
The blue lagoon? No, Antipaxi island, Greece. Photo credit: Marina T Alamanou on Unsplash

5. Antipaxi, Ionian Islands

Literally a mini paradise in the tranquil Ionian Sea, near Corfu and off mainland Epirus. This beautiful ‘piece’ of land, a mere 5km (3 miles) in total (you can actually walk the entire island), emerged after Greek God of the Sea Poseidon, searching for a love nest for himself and his lover (later wife) Amphitriti, struck Corfu with his trident and broke a piece off.

Picture silky white sand beaches, turquoise waters, tiny coves, spectacular caves, a baby pine forest, no cars, no roads, no shops. You get the picture! A bit of seventh heaven on earth.

So if it’s solitude you’re after, Antipaxi is the place. Don’t forget to make a wish on a white stone and place it under the “wishing tree” at Vrika Beach (note: “vrika” means “to find”). And for me, the best time for solitude is to go off season. Who knows, you just might run into a Mediterranean seal or the rare Caretta caretta sea turtle or even a Hollywood star on glamorous sister island, Paxi. 

►Best time to visit: June, early July or September, October

►Does it have an airport: no, you fly to Corfu

►Getting there: you can book a flight to Corfu from Athens, from there take a day boat trip to Paxos and Antipaxos or rent a boat from Paxos.

A map of Greece will definitely come in handy. I recommend you get this easy-to-read and detailed waterproof adventure map of Greece by experts NatGeo. A great tool!

These are some of the trusted partners I use when I travel in Greece and abroad.

  • 🏩 Expedia is my favorite when I want to find the best hotels and affordable accommodation.
  •  🛫 I always look for cheapest flights on Kayak
  • For vacation home rentals is love VRBO
  • I use Tripadvisor all the time for restraunt and hotel ratings and for things to do.
  • ⛴ Ferryscanner is the easiest way to book your ferry tickets online? 
  • 🚘 Discover Greece in comfort with a car. DiscoverCars is a great place to compare prices and find the best deal that suits your needs. Plus they offer info on local and international companies
  • 📞 Don’t pay exorbitant prices for your phone. Instead, stay connected using a local SIM card at affordable prices with Airalo
  • 🏛 Go deeper into Greek culture with exciting sightseeing tours & activities with Viator
  • 🤿 Plan fun things to do & exciting adventures in Greece with the experts at GetYourGuide. I use them when I travel abroad.
  • 🏕 Want to find the perfect campground in Greece? Campsaround is the ultimate go-to source and my personal favorite
  • 🛵 Greece is the perfect place to explore on bike, moped or motorbike, especially if you’re on a budget. Rent your bikes from BikesBooking – they know their stuff.

*The Greek Vibe may receive commissions on purchases made through affiliates and partner links. Clicking affiliate or partner links comes at no additional cost to you but goes a long way in supporting our work.

♫ I end today’s post with a 1991 Greek pop hit penned by Michalis Rakintzis and featuring Sofia Arvaniti about summer love on a Greek island during one more wonderful Greek summer. “Mi You Milas Gia Kalokairia” (No More Talk About Summers).

Be well, travel!

Small But Great Greek Islands for Your Vacation

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